Indian space agency ISRO has released a set of five stunning images of Earth that were taken by Chandrayaan 2 between 10.58 pm and 11.07 pm IST yesterday. Launched on July 22, a week after the mission was aborted 56 minutes before lift-off, Chandrayaan 2 aims to make India only the fourth nation to successfully make a soft landing on the Moon.
"The images are crystal clear and (the) spacecraft is perfectly normal. I am extremely happy with the mission so far. The images taken by the lander suggest it should be able to function as expected during the 15-terrifying moments when it goes in for the lunar landing," ISRO chairman K Sivan told NDTV.
The images were taken from a distance of approximately 5,000 km and by the LI4 camera aboard the lander. They show parts of the Pacific Ocean and the American continent.
Chandrayaan 2 was propelled into space by the 44-metre-long GSLV Mk3 rocket - India's largest and most powerful. It consists of an orbiter, a lander 'Vikram' (named after ISRO founder and eminent scientist Vikram Sarabhai) and a moon rover 'Pragyaan'.
After completing its Earth raising orbits - a fourth was completed at 3.27 pm on Friday and a fifth is scheduled for between 2.30 pm and 3.30 pm on Tuesday - the spacecraft will be nudged towards the Moon on August 14. It is expected that it will be captured by the Moon's gravity on August 20.
The lunar landing, scheduled for September 7, is to be watched live by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was present at the mission operations centre in Bengaluru when the Mangalyaan spacecraft was steered into the orbit of Mars in 2014.
The Rs 1,000-crore Chandrayaan 2 is India's second foray to the Moon. The Chandrayaan 1 mission was an orbiter and the mission included other countries, like the US, the UK and the European Space Agency. It cost Rs. 450 crore and was launched with the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in 2008.
PM Modi has vowed to send a human into orbit by 2022 through Gaganyaan. Most experts say the geo-strategic stakes are high and that India's low-cost model could win commercial satellite and orbiting deals with the country asserting its space power.